Asia stocks follow Wall Street higher

Asia stocks follow Wall Street higher
# 04 January 2012 03:59 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Asian stock markets were mostly higher Wednesday after Wall Street opened the year with a bang following the release of positive U.S. economic data, APA reports quoting website.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index gained 1.1 percent to 8,550.93, while Australia’s S&P ASX 200 jumped 2.1 percent to 4,185.70. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines also rose.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slipped 0.5 percent to 18,787.77 while South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.2 percent to 1,872.40.

On Wall Street, stocks rose sharply Tuesday after investors returned from the holiday and found encouraging economic reports.

The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index for December showed a rise to 53.9 from 52.7 in November, with readings above 50 indicating expansion. Factories hired more workers in December, saw the most growth in new orders since April and ramped up production.

Other data showed the struggling construction industry on firmer footing, with U.S. builders spending more in November on single-family homes, apartments and remodeling projects.

The strong reports correspond with other positive signs for the economy, including rising consumer confidence and a drop in unemployment benefit applications.

"The US continues to grow fairly earnestly in spite of turmoil in Europe. Yesterday’s ISM report was especially encouraging," analysts at DBS Bank Ltd. in Singapore said in a research note.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 1.4 percent to 12,397.38, its highest close in more than five months.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index, a broader gauge than the Dow, finished up almost 20 points at 1,277. The S&P finished 2011 was virtually unchanged.

There was also hope from Europe’s largest economy, Germany, which reported that the average number of people unemployed there last year was the lowest in two decades. Germany has an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent, compared with 8.6 percent in the United States.

Meanwhile, China’s manufacturing index rose in December, reversing a November slide and raising hopes that the country’s economic slowdown is under control.

A jump in commodity prices, which often follow stock prices, helped metals and mining shares. In Australia, OZ Minerals and Fortescue Metals Group both rose 4.1 percent. Uranium miner Paladin Energy gained 2.9 percent. BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, soared 4 percent.

Benchmark crude for February delivery fell 31 cents to $102.67 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $4.13 to finish at $102.96 per barrel on the Nymex on Tuesday.

In currency trading, the euro fell to $1.3030 from $1.3056 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar fell slightly to 76.65 yen from 76.67 yen.